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BEN: In regard to history itself, you talk a lot about critical realism as opposed to either radical subjectivity or assumed positivistic objectivity when it comes to the human analysis of data. How does critical realism differ from, say Derrida or reader-response theories of Fish and others? Is there really nothing but texts, and is it really true that meaning is entirely in the eye of the beholder, or merely created in the interaction between the ‘reader’ and his source material?
TOM: ‘Critical realism’ has meant different things to different people but I use it, borrowing from the late great Ben F Meyer in his The Aims of Jesus and various other books and essays, to mean, broadly, that of course we must be aware of an author’s point of view, and also of our own point of view, and make full allowance for both – but that, when we do that, we can still make positive judgments about the historicity of what the text is describing (if it is indeed intending to describe historical events, which e.g. Luke makes blindingly obvious). So the ‘critical’ bit allows for Derrida, Fish and others, but the ‘realism’ bit – which is not simply a ‘chastened positivism’ as some have suggested! – insists that historical knowledge, gleaned from sources that have been tested and critically assessed, is none the less real knowledge of the past, not fantasy. Thus e.g. we know that Jerusalem was destroyed in AD 70; we know that Jesus of Nazareth died by crucifixion; that Saul of Tarsus was transformed into Paul, the wandering and letter-writing apostle . . . and so on . . . and we can build out from there.
BEN - Phrase - Book - Epistemology - Love
BEN: Another key phrase that occurs again and again in your new book is the epistemology of love, by...
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